The Northern Way

The Norse King's Bridal


The throstle he roused him at fall of eve
        And said to the owlet grey,
"Lo, brother, look through the dusky wood
        And tell who comes this way."

The owlet stirred on the swaying bough
        Of the slender birchen-tree:
"And seest thou not the minstrel-wight
        A-roaming along the lea?"

"And what of the voice that comes with him,
        The voice that sighs and sings?"
"Oh, that's the sound of the harp he bears
        As the wind blows over the strings."

"And is it for love of a fair young maid
        That his cheek is pale and wan?"
"Ay, a maid I wis, but never a kiss
        Will she lay on the lips of man.

"He must sit all day at the ale-house door
        Amid the talk o' the town,
With a merry stave for knight and knave
        And a jest for the staring clown.

"But when bells are rung and songs are sung
        And all men lie and sleep,
The merry minstrel forth must fare
        His secret tryst to keep.

"The merry minstrel forth must fare,
        All in the twilight dim,
To woo the queen o' Fairyland
        That's cast a spell on him.

"Oh her form's the form of the lily-white
        That sways to the breeze, and her breath
Is the scent o' the thyme and the blowing furze
        And the honey that's stored in the heath.

"And her dark eyes' beam is the wavering
        On the water that's wan to see
When the evening star hangs faint and far
        Above the birchen-tree.

"And wouldst thou learn her secret lore,
        Go, read the magic rune
That the writhen boughs of the thorn-tree
        O' nights across the moon."

"And what's the guerdon he shall gain
        By grace of the Fairy-queen?"
"Oh, a hope that's lost and a love that's
        And tears and toil and tene,

"And feet astray in the paths of day,
        And a song that cannot be sung---
For elfin music is wind and breath
        When the matin-bell is rung.

"For the cock crows shrill, and the dew lines
        And the faint stars die, withdrawn;
And elfin gold is withered leaves
        At the coming of the dawn."

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